short stories

~ A Message to my Old Flatmate ~

~ A Message to my Old Flatmate ~

I remember once living with a man. He was a thirty-five-year-old bus driver who had moved to the U.K from Hungary. We shared a flat together in the city of Brighton. One time I was in the kitchen and he was asking me about my life. “So Ryan, what is it that you do exactly?” I looked at him and thought of how to answer this age-old question once again. 

“Well, I work for a bit at whatever job I can find, save up for an adventure and then go on it. I also do a bit of writing too.”

 “Oh,” he said. “That’s cool. I wanted to do a bit of travelling when I was younger. I never got round to it though. I guess it’s too late now. You can do that stuff when you’re your age, but at my age it’s not so easy.”

 “Why not?” I asked him. “You don’t have any responsibilities. And you’ve got savings. You can start travelling next week if you want to. Just book your flight and pack your bags.” It was at this point he looked at me as if I had just suggested to go out and murder a small child. 

  “Well, you know, I’m getting old now. I can’t just quit my job and run off into the wilderness. I need to find my own place. Need to settle down; need to get my shit together…” 

 “Is that what you really want to do?” I asked.

“It’s not what I want to do; it’s what I have to do. Otherwise I’ll end up single and living in a flatshare all my life. No offence…”

 “None taken.”

“You know, I really did want to do what you do. I wanted to go to South America and Asia and Australia. I wanted to experience other cultures and climb mountains. I still do want to do those things. Perhaps one day when I am retired, but now I need to focus on other things. It’s easy to do in your twenties like you, but at my age there are other things you have to worry about. You’ll understand.”

He went on and on making excuses while I just stared and listened. Looking at his circumstances, I did not see any real barriers in his life; at least not any that existed anywhere else other than his mind. But he was always this way since I had moved in a few months previous – panicking about his age and his situation; talking about how he needed to find his own place, fill it with furniture, find a girlfriend etc.. Never at peace and content with his life; never enjoying it because his mind was constantly stressing about the future. The strange thing was that listening to him I could hear he wasn’t even excited about those things; it was just something he felt he had to do because of social and cultural pressures. It made me sad. As cliche as it sounds, there is so much you can do in life, and usually it was just simply a matter of finding the strength to believe in your own voice. I wanted to tell him this, but in the end I didn’t say anything; I just finished making my lunch and retreated back to my room. But I carried on thinking about those mental barriers people erected to limit their life possibilities. I had met so many people like him with the same old excuses, the same old dogmas – the same old mental gymnastics to justify why they weren’t living the life they actually wanted to. For a moment it reminded me of the film the matrix; when you see people plugged into the social matrix, wanting to shake them out of the spell and wake them up to the reality of life. I wanted to do this to him, but I instead did what I always did and just typed out my thoughts on a computer instead. Here is what I wanted to say to him:

‘You do not have to do the things you think you are supposed to do. You do have to spend your one existence mindlessly adhering to social conventions. There are as many ways to live as there are as many people on the planet; recognise this simple fact and realise you can do whatever you want to do with your life. Yes, the peer pressure will come, the heavy hands of society will fall on your shoulder, your parents will try to usher you to one direction, but stop, look around. Be silent. Have a think to yourself. Is that what you really want? Is that going to make you happy? In this life often the only restrictions to doing things are physics and law enforcement. With an open mind the possibilities are almost endless. You can join the circus. You can build a boat and sail to Spain. You can live in a van and become a rock climber. You can move to China and teach English while writing a dystopian novel. You can do so much, yet the formula has been laid out by the establishment: go to school, get a degree or qualification, get a steady 9-5 job, find a partner, get married, have kids, get a mortgage, live in one place, go on package holidays, watch television after work, get drunk at the weekend. And so many people just blindly accept it, never realising that life is a wonderful opportunity to walk any path you can just about imagine.

Yes, of course there are some limitations. You will need money and to fit in with society to some degree. I’m not saying it’s easy to slip free from the shackles of this system we’ve created, but it can be done. I know this because I have seen it done. I have seen it done by a street performer playing his guitar with a sort of otherworldly passion. He was a man who quit his career job and lived in a van while street performing around Europe. He lived solely off the money he made from his performances. Then there was the American girl who worked half the year in hospitality and on a marijuana farm. She stacked that cash then booked a ticket to somewhere in Asia to roam around for another six months. Then there was the cycle tourist who roamed around Europe on his bike; the pole-dancer dancing her way around the world; the chef living in a cave in Thailand. God, there were so many people out there living life the way they wanted, overcoming those mental barriers that were erected through cultural conditioning. They were people who knew that as long as you have the basics covered for immediate survival, then everything else is just a simple rewiring of the mind. Yes, you will have to overcome not having stability and security (which are also mental illusions incidentally). You will also have to overcome people judging you for choosing to live differently to them. For finding the strength to overcome these things, I recommend the following: meditation, yoga, psychedelic drugs, walks in nature, and time spent experiencing other cultures. These will help your mind to sober up and show you that your mental reality is built so much by your surroundings, and that it’s all relative – that your mind is programmed by the cultural ideology of the place you were born. How you perceive life and what you think it to be about will be completely different if you were born in a different time or age.

When you start to realise this, then you can begin to look around and see through the illusions of your society. You can watch the people so clearly programmed by their media, their peers and parents, and their educational system. You can spot the people not speaking as individuals, but simply regurgitating the slogans of the culture they were born into. Illusions are what makes the system run, and some may argue that the system is important. Well, I think that system is not truly serving everyone and making them happy. Are you happy? Only you yourself can answer that, but I know many people that aren’t. So many people I know are on antidepressant meds and therapy. They are escaping through cocaine and alcohol and television. They are constantly stressing about the future. Society is sending people insane. And this is because their inner voices have been drowned out. The only answer I can say from my experience, is to turn to yourself. You’ve got to get back in touch with your soul and find what is real to you.

Also realise that no one really knows what the fuck they are really doing. 95% of people are following the herd, doing things because they want to fit in and be accepted among the crowd. These people have no right to judge you if you want to do something different. They have not found it in themselves to explore life beyond the cultural safe-farm, so forget about their limited perspective. You will have to overcome fear of being different; of walking your own path. But I can assure you this will fill your heart with a joy that cannot be bought in a goddamn furniture store.

I guess if I’m saying all of this then I should probably also say a little about myself. I am just a guy who one day realised that trying to fit in and do what was expected of me was slowly killing me. I went to university, thought I would get a career job after and become a normal civilised person like you think you should be. But I always knew in my heart that wasn’t my path; and the more I tried to follow it, the more depressed and empty I became. So one day I decided to start travelling the world, living for the experience, finding my own truth from beyond those fences of social normality. It is that following of which has led me to writing these words now. These words came to me by believing in my own voice; by kicking down those barriers in my mind and realising that an empowered individual, in touch with their own existential core, can live life whatever way they can imagine. And you can do the same too brother. You can do the same too. So come on: think about it. Think about taking control of your life. Think about doing something because your soul calls out for it, not because you’re ‘supposed’ to do it. I dare you. Take that trip to South America. Pursue your passion. Stop missing the beauty of life because you’re stressing over what you should be doing. One day you’re gonna be in that hospital deathbed, staring out the window as the light leaves your eyes. At that moment you will realise just how precious your one fleeting existence was, and maybe, as they say, your life will flash before your eyes. So make sure it’s worth watching…’

(yes, in hindsight I realise a lot of this was talking to myself)

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